BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – “CHRISTMAS WITH THE JOKER”
Original Air Date: November 13, 1992
Batman and Robin’s Holiday is rudely interrupted by a sadistic Xmas special hosted by a man in permanent make up.
Batman is a DC comic character created by Bob Kane in 1939. Since then, he’s crossed over into almost every medium known to man with at least one smashing success in the land of TV, film and video games.
Batman’s 1st appearance in Detective Comics No. 27, and the characters from 1989’s Batman
Right around the time Tim Burton’s Caped Crusader movies were at the peak of their popularity, Warner Brothers (owner of DC) and Fox created an animated series to coincide with that summer’s Batman Returns in 1992.
Although the show’s title changed as it was shuffled around networks and time slots, the show has stood the test of time with fans and set the look, style, and tone for DC’s animation division and won four Emmys throughout it’s multi year run.
Is there anybody out there who watched Batman: The Animated Series that’s got something bad to say about it? Didn’t think so! Since you obviously agree with me, please enjoy some Christmas Gotham City imagery as my gift to you:
Uh oh! Joker got of Arkham… again
Everything your nostalgia tells you about the show still rings true. It’s well acted, well written, just tad more violent, and whatever the hell steampunk/1950’s Space Age motif WB was going for seriously still make for some of the most gorgeously hand-drawn backdrops you’re likely to take away from mid 90s TV animation.
Joker sings the “Batman Smells” version of “Jingle Bells”
And as an even stronger testament to how much I love this show, I’ll go ahead and make a bold statement: Kevin Conroy’s Batman and Mark Hamill’s Joker are my absolute favorite characterizations of the eternally feuding duo (with sincere apologies to Heath Ledger and Adam West.)
Kevin Conroy has voiced The Bat for nearly two decades, and in case you didn’t know, Joker’s words comes from the lungs of Luke “Motherfucking” Skywalker!
Thank The Great Holy One that this special just so happens to star the both of ‘em, going toe-to-toe for seemingly the billionth time. That said, they don’t share all that much screen time together. The Joker spends the bulk of the special taunting Bats live via satellite.
“I’m starting to think you’re obsessed”
Robin tries to convince the Batman that they can take the night off and enjoy a showing of It’s a Wonderful Life on TV. That doesn’t sit well with Bats, as long as the Joker remains freshly escape from prison
Although, after some heartwarming Gotham street kindness, Batman reluctantly throws in the towel to take in the Jimmy Stewart classic with Rob- I mean, Dick. Trusty Dick Grayson.
The millionaire’s CRT screening tube
Of course once they flip on the TV tube… thing, they’re met with an extremely unCapra-esque image.
Why is this color?! Batman’s TV is never in color…
Oh, who could it be…
I pieced this together from a vertical pan up, so scroll up from this text to get the full effect of the reveal!
Who would’ve guessed that Bruce Wayne’s intuition would’ve been correct? Sure enough, the Joker is not only preempting a time honored Christmas classic, and broadcasting in color, he’s also kidnapped Commissioner Gordon, Summer Gleason, and Harvey Bullock.
Let’s meet our fabulous death panel!
And herein lies the reason why The Joker remains the perfect villain both onscreen and on the page. He doesn’t want to “win,” he never stands to gain anything.
Oooo, a 2nd title screen!
Sure he’s he’s willing to resort to elaborate and clever methodology, and occasionally lethal means, but all he truly desires is 30 to 90 minutes of Batman’s attention, then he’s free to lock him back in Arkham, because at least breaking out will give him something to do.
Part of the program
Every writer wishes they had a Joker; someone always perfectly ready and willing to play the foil, and doesn’t really give a fuck if they get caught. For Joker, that’s half the fun. But much like the Highlander, there can only be one.
Terrorist plot: SOLVED!
Batman traces the signal to a mountain observatory, and speeds off to the location summit. Now, I know I’m not as smart as The World’s Greatest Detective, but even I know that Joker’s never going to make something that easy.
Oh, whoda thunk? It was all part of a trap.
I suppose Bats knows that the fastest way to get to the bottom of any Joker plot is to allow it to unravel. Plus, he never dies anyway. But I was still screaming at the screen after The Dark Knight leaps from the Batmobile anxious to unwrap an ominous gift mysteriously left by a radio tower.
I don’t know from science, but I’m pretty sure observatory telescopes are not supposed to do that
And now a publically funded, giant instrument of science is going apeshit on Gotham. C’mon, Bruce…c’mon.
Of course things get worse
Robin heads into the observatory and cunningly blows up something rectangular.
YAY! Real ammunition!
This apparently does the trick, so Batman and Robin share… a tender moment:
Love is above the law
Unfortunately, Joker’s still broadcasting anarchy right over the part where George Bailey would be wishing everyone “Merry Christmas” and he’s resorted to sub-America’s Funniest Home Videos gaggery to do it.
Bats speeds along and lets the audience know exactly what the people of Gotham are missing…
I mean, beyond the stability of life in a normal city
And then Joker televises the one thing that’ll lead to his demise.
That’s not just a Betty Boop reference, kids
AHA! You didn’t count on Batman being an avid toy collector, didja Joker?! He not only knows the name of the doll, but the closed factory that used to produce it and its location. Oh Batman, you’re as layered as a Xmas onion.
Is there anything he doesn’t know?
Once inside the too-awesome-for-this world Laffco factory, B&R are just a few Xmas-themed fights away from finding The Joker
What did he mean by “Nutcracker”?!
And here’s where things get a little weird…
Okay, that’s pretty silly
I understand better men than me spent their lives figuring out how Batman can punch, Bat-a-rang, and otherwise non-leathally subdue criminals into incarceration, but this is still pretty fucking goofy
Murderous toy planes have one weakness…
Honestly, every pun I could think of was yelled out by Robin before I could write it down.
And of course we’ve got one last showdown with the Joker to swallow
As you can see, there’s a lot on the line
Oh no! Joker’s activated the doll factory’s decommissioned Lava Cauldron!
All you have to do is open the box…
Yet all Joker wants to do is give Batman a gift. And he’s even gone ahead and bought WB approved Bat-Wrap. What a guy!
“Well, if all I have to do is open the box…”
So what foul implement of mortal chaos awaits Batman inside the box…
… wait for it…
…Seriously, would you open that thing?
…No for real, would you willfully open anything the Joker gave you with your name on it?
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?!
Here it comes…
D’OH! Oh well, Master Wayne. Some people just want to watch the world LAUGH!
Obviously, Batman captures the Joker by pulling him away from the inviting precipice of death, as is his way.
Because why let the an accident solve a lifetime of problems?
And Master Wayne and Lady Grayson head home to take in that movie about life being wonderful.
I was dreading the idea of Batman, or even Alfred turning to the camera and wishing me a “Happy Holidays,” but thank Christ that didn’t happen. “Christmas with the Joker” ends with well, the Joker, creepily singing carols to himself while restrained in a padded cell.
If God exists, then why does he allow Joel Schumacher to make Batman movies. Enjoy your paradox, Bible Thumpers. The rest of us are moving on to the next section…
Nah, save for a Salvation Army-esque appearance on the streets of Gotham, where both salvation and the Army are useless.
“Merry Christmas, you’re all fucked”
I dunno… as much as I loved watching Gotham decked in tinsel, there’s not much Christmas joy to be had from this episode. Having not watched the rest of the series, I can only imagine it’s a pretty standard Joker one-off, but at least it’s got some great Holiday imagery, albeit dark as holy hell. Can’t really recommend it to annual viewings either… it’s not bad by any means, just far better watched alone by Gen X males like myself.
PRODUCT INFORMATION (Shop Amazon through us – it helps!)
The entire Batman: The Animated Series is available on DVD in four Volumes, with “Christmas with the Joker” appearing on the on Volume 1. It’s hard to recommend something as dark and brooding as Batman as a Holiday gift, however, I can easily recommend picking up The Dark Knight on Blu-ray, as it’s a must-won movie, one of the best examples of what the Hig-Def format has to offer, and Amazon’s selling it super cheap for the Holidays. While we’re deviating from Christmas and DVDs, I should also recommend Batman: Arkham Asylum for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC since it’s the best Batman video games ever made. GamesRadar.com even gave it their 2009 Game of the Year.